University FD and Red Cross 'sound the alarm' at Gold Rush Estates this weekend

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska The University Fire Department and the American Red Cross are teaming up this weekend to install smoke detectors in the Gold Rush Estates.

The idea to replace smoke detectors in the in the neighborhood was introduced by a University Fire Department student and Lieutenant Colin Field. As a requirement for a project management class for master's degree.

Sound the Alarm in the Gold Rush Estates neighborhood in Fairbanks as part of the nationwide Red Cross effort to help reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by home fires. The goal is to install 150 free smoke alarms alongside the University Fire Department on Saturday, May 18, 2019.

"I had to choose a medium to large project and this took place shortly after we had a fatal fire in the Gold Rush Estates Park. So I thought it was a really great opportunity give back to the community and solve a problem," said Field. “We’ve got a lot of help from the University Fire Department we have six fire fighters that are going to come and help install smoke detectors as well as our fire marshal and life safety technician.”

Field says since 2015 there has been 9 structure fires in that neighborhood, Field says this is also great opportunity to talk to the public about fire safety plans, and other ways to better help the neighborhood. Not only for the residents but for the emergency responders.

"The smoke alarm installation is just one part of this larger project. We are also going to be looking at the fire hydrants in the area. The big push is to work on the addressing in the park, and get some high visibility signs to improve response not only to fires but also to EMS calls," he said “We will be providing high visibility signs in addition to improving the addressing of the park itself.”

Field said they are working with the park owner and the borough, and that will greatly improve the response time to the park.

“In case we are busy with another call, and if you have an ambulance coming from Chena or Fairbanks, they might not be familiar with the park and that improved addressing and high visibility signs will greatly reduce their response times so they won’t have to search for the correct trailer,” said Field.

Field also added the project started off as a standalone assignment for the University. After talking to the University Fire Marshall, he was referred to reach out to another organization that has many years of experience installing smoke detectors.

“He recommended reaching out to the Red Cross, and that has made things incredibly easy because they already have this large program in place. They already had all the smoke detectors in place, and they can bring a lot of personnel to help with the installation because they do this routinely throughout the state and the United States,” he said.

Shayne Jones is the Disaster Program Manager for far North and Interior region of Alaska with the American Red Cross. He said the organization has a program called the "Home Fire Campaign."

"The American Red Cross has identified a need within communities because of the fire threats that many communities face, and especially here in Alaska," said Jones. “We have this program that will install smoke detectors free of charge to anybody who needs them.”

Jones says there are roughly 7 people who die every day due to house fires in the U.S.

"I know that the American Red Cross has installed 1.2 million smoke detectors in the last year. I know that here in the Far North and Interior we have installed 700 smoke detectors in people's homes completely free of charge to them and we have assisted them with their evacuation plans, “he said.

Jones said even with an evacuation plan most people don’t realize how quickly how fast a fire once it started in a home can spread. The national averages people have between 2-3 minutes to evacuate a home before it becomes unlivable.

“With an evacuation plan that has been practiced, or at least understood with all the members of a family or somebody living in that home, it doubles their opportunity to get out of that home whenever that fire would begin to occur within the home,” said Jones

He said having an evacuation plan is a key part of safe practice, and having the smoke detectors to identify that there is a fire within the home is also important, but having a plan to remove themselves from the danger and accounting for everyone that is in the home helps the fire department when they arrive because then they know whether or not everyone has been accounted for within the home.

“Here in Fairbanks we have partnerships with all of the fire departments in this area. On any given fire, the fire departments know that if there is a family that has been displaced by a fire that they can call the American Red Cross and we can provide immediate assistance for that family or for whomever that is living in that home,” said Jones.

The partnership these agencies share is mutually beneficial not only to the residents who live in the area but to the emergency personal that provide services to keep the community educated and safe.
To schedule an appointment for free smoke alarms and installation ahead of Saturday’s event, please contact 907-456-5937 ext. 5100 or email jacob.walker@redcross.org.

To speak with a representative with the American Red Cross of Alaska serving the Far North and Interior or with the University Fire Department about the event, or to ride along during the event, please call 907-782-7520 or email cari.dighton@redcross.org.